Why have we sent a mission to asteroid Bennu?
Why have scientists and engineers invested so much time, effort and money into a mission to a nearby asteroid?
Asked by Josh Hooper
Bennu is a primordial goldmine
Since the asteroid dates back to the formation of the Solar System, astronomers will turn detective in piecing together clues from the historic organic materials it may contain.
It could fuel future space missions
There is a good chance that Bennu will contain a fuel source, pointing to the possibility of spacecraft using asteroids to ‘gas-up’, letting them travel much further in the future.
There’s an opportunity to practice manoeuvres
Bennu will allow scientists to practice navigating a craft around an asteroid. Since the gravity is low and there’s pressure from sunlight, it will provide ample teaching material for engineers.
Companies are seeking to mine it
With its rich source of minerals, there is a clamour among companies and governments to take advantage of the resources that asteroids have to offer, and they’ll be keenly watching.
It may hit Earth one day
There’s a one in 2,500 chance that Bennu will collide with Earth in the late 22nd century. But by tracking NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex mission as it orbits the asteroid, its path and characteristics can be better measured and predicted.
Keep up to date with the latest news in All About Space – available every month for just £4.99. Alternatively you can subscribe here for a fraction of the price!